Highlights: Iceland

Some highlights, for our memories and for anyone who might be planning a visit (We're hoping to do this for each country):

The Reykjavík Grapevine: the English language weekly paper

Kaffismiðja: that one I keep going on about

The Photography Museum of Reykjavík

Vík Prjónsdóttir: crazy cool knit stuff

Noodle Station: Thai noodle soup, cheap and delicious

Hallgrímskirkja: a the big church that serves as a good navigation point and stands out in my mind for its grand simplicity

C is for Cookie: another wonderful coffee shop hang

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur: a hot dog stand, voted best restaurant in Europe a couple years back.

The Icelandic Handknitters Association: for delightful wool as straight from the source as we found it in Reykjavik, with some helpful staff when it comes to the conversions between American and Iceland knitting terms

The Seabaron: small seafood place by the harbor that even the locals recommend, with the best lobster soup you'll ever have...and the most lovely and smiling owner.

Skyr: the BEST. That is all.

Location:Jamaica St,Glasgow,United Kingdom

Takk Fyrir, Ísland

4:15 am. Wake up.4:43 am. Out the door. 5:16 am. Shuttle to Keflavik international airport. 8:05 am. Liftoff to the south and east and destination two: Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

There are obviously very many things we didn't do in Ísland, but what we did do certainly gave us reason enough to feel that we not only got to see the country a bit, but we also got to know it.

You might have noticed that we've uploaded a lot of pictures that you can get to over in the right column. In there are some from:

- Hiking Mt. Esja, the main ridge/range across the water that looks over Reykjavík and the surrounding area. We only made it to checkpoint four (of six) before turning around in order to catch the bus back to town, but from the very start it was apparent that hiking in Ísland is slightly different than in the States in that the trail starts and it just goes up. No signs saying how difficult it may or may not be...just up. We were hoping to go back another day (earlier) to get to the top but ran out of days. Next time!

- A trip to Þorsmörk on the south coast, a wildlife preserve that nestles into three glaciers, if my memory serves. One of these is on Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that blew last year, and one is on Hekla, which is "the one they're really worried about," due to the amunt of flooding it would cause with glacial melt. After our picnic lunch we hiked up a ridge on paths with dropoffs that made us question whether or not they were actually the continuation of the trail and at the top got confronted (well, Casey did) by a Norwegian woman who was more than eager to chat. She was also at least 75 years old. Apparently Norway has something in the water?

- A coffee shop that all others I visit will now be judged by.

- The 10:40 pm sunset that we managed to catch three nights in a row as it little up the entire sky and surronding mountains and backlit the gulls as they reached their evening feeding time. If we were here just a couple weeks from now we would've gotten to experience the 24 hr. sunlight.

We owe a big thanks to our couch surfing hosts, James and Audra, who included us on a dinner party with some friends of theirs (Kári, Helga, Gunnar, Vala and her daughter Járngerður [whose full name translates to Iron Maiden, daughter of the thunder of Thor - beat that!]), allowing us to step into local culture a little further. Audra also made one of the best cakes I've had in recent memory: pear almond.

We also owe a mini shout to Kjartan, the fisherman from the Vestmannaeyjar islands, who we met at the hostel our second night and who I can be seen "arm wrestling with", though it was him who said it doesn't matter who wins.

Location:Manchester, UK

A Shout Out...

...to Jack Passion. If you do not know him, he's the two-time WORLD champion in the Natural Full Beard at the world beard and mustache championships. We happened into him on the street in Reykjavik today and he (and his friends) were super nice, even after 30 or so hours of travel to get here from California.

Backstory: before heading out to Iceland, while researching "things happening in Iceland" we somehow came across the World Championships of Beard and Mustache...growing, or something like that. Pretty phenomenal. When we realized that, though the event was in Norway, the American team would be stoppong in Iceland for a few days while we were supposed to be here, we vowed to approach any man with amazing facial hair. We figured that either they would be en route to the championships or just be worthwhile for some conversation.

Thus, across our path walked Jack Passion today. We decided to keep our promise to ourselves...So, on Sunday, send out some good winning-natural-beard vibes his way and know he is a nice guy.

jackpassion.com labeards.org. (jack's pal, also really nice!)


Location:Reykjavik, Iceland

Some Inspiration

This is the magic of travel. You leave your home secure in your own knowledge and identity. But as you travel, the world in all it's richness intervenes. You meet people you could not invent; you see scenes you could not imagine. Your own world, which was so large as to consume your whole life, becomes smaller and smaller until it is only one tiny dot in time and space.Your return a different person. All you need to do is give yourself over to the unknown. It doesn't have to be on a vast, dreamlike arctic plain. It can be on a gentle stroll through a Wisconsin forest or on a street corner in Nairobi. What matters is that you leave the comfort of the familiar and open yourself to a world totally apart from your own.

- From Letters To My Son by Kent Nerburn

* this was part of a reading that some wonderful friends gave us for our first plane ride and it really resonates with us. we couldn't say it better ourselves.

Location:Reykjavik, Iceland

An Americano in Reykjavik

I am currently sitting in a great little cafe, called Kaffimidja Íslands, that we were directed to by none other than some kids from Northeastern that we met at the hostel while we checked out the other day. Until a moment ago Thriller was playing, on vinyl, in the corner. This is both comforting in its familiarity and irksome, much in the way English is spoken prevalently here. Strangely enough, Eli has been greeted in German at least once per day since arriving. We blame his glasses...and ancestry, of course. The cafe is unmarked but insanely popular - and rightfully so, as the coffee seems to be the best we've sampled so far and the setting a great mix of living room comfy and clean, DesignSponge worthy kitsch. As you can see, complete with BubbleYum pink roasters.

The cafe is right down the street from the famous Hallgrímskirkja - the church that sits at the top of a hill in city center and is a great landmark to orient yourself by when first in town. When we visited, there was a wedding ceremony for a Japanese couple taking place, so we first went up to the top of the tower to take in the entirety of Reykjavik. The 360 degree view was definitely worth the 1000Kr which is roughly $8 or $9. On the way up, there were some great drawings by young ones taped to the walls. The true awesome simplicity of the structure is hard to capture, so I admire their efforts.

Here is a peek from behind one of the four clock faces and the overall view of the colorful rooftops and beyond:

The church itself is home to a wildly large organ that essentially hovers above the entrance way. Everything, as you can see, is housed in simple design and very peaceful because of it:

We caught a free organ concert here this afternoon before coming to the cafe. Eli and I represented the bottom 10% of the age bracket there, but still had a pretty great time.

Since this is my very first post and I'm just getting into the swing of framing these bits of commentary and reflection, I will close this one out here. There is so much to really take in - but also so much to share that we could easily record something every day. It is some of the smaller and less specifically touristy things that have been helping us shift into the traveling mindset slowly but surely. Naturally, the is a large part of me that still feels that our next flight will be leading us right back to the Pretzel Factory in to the coziness of our beloved nest. It is a strong inertia to pull the firing of synapses and will of our bodies against...a process made far easier by delicious espresso and transfixing people watching while (now) The Smiths play in the background.